FAYETTEVILLE – The city’s housing authority is becoming more stable, its board chairwoman told the city council on Tuesday.
The filling of vacancies and the lack of income from tenants due to the Covid-19 pandemic have posed challenges for the agency’s operations, said CEO Melissa Terry. The board recently enlisted the help of outside consultants to stabilize the organization and formed committees to deal with staffing, she said.
Councilor Sonia GutiÃ©rrez Harvey said she had previous conversations with Terry about what was going on with the agency and thought it would be helpful for the rest of the council to hear. She suggested Terry hold quarterly briefings and said she wanted to meet with Terry regularly. The council asked no questions on Tuesday.
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development is investigating the agency for compliance with federal rules and regulations. It made inquiries about records, specifically regarding money the agency’s nonprofit, FHA Development, owed the regular agency.
The board membership for FHA Development is the same as the board of the regular authority with the exception of one member. FHA Development has one employee, and the regular government employees keep track of the time they spend on community service.
A few years ago, the board of directors had the plan to buy and renovate several apartment buildings with the non-profit organization. Since then she has given up ownership of two apartment complexes, is in the process of selling two more and has one on the market.
At the beginning of the month, FHA Development owed the regular agency either about $ 79,000 or about $ 127,000. The amount depends on whether the HUD is awarding the nonprofit development funds from a federal grant to relocate residents of the Hillcrest Towers public housing complex to property that the nonprofit purchased, the former Hi-Way Inn & Motel, while at the towers in urgent renovation works were carried out in 2019.
The regular agency has had five heads for the past three years. The Board of Management dismissed the former Executive Director Deniece Smiley in 2018 and her successor Angela Belford in March. This was followed by two interim directors who resigned and cited the conduct of the board of directors as the reason for their departure. Audra Butler took over the interim management on September 16.
Several board meetings lasted for hours, with exchanges between board members, employees and the public at times becoming heated.
Terry told the council that the agency had seen a number of job vacancies prior to the recent resignations.
“It was really stressful for the staff to work with so many holes in there,” she said. “I think part of what we’ve seen is this frustration and some of the tension that especially comes with a big change in leadership.”
The board hired Sheila Posey with OnPoint Solutions to interview employees and Gerald Turner with HEAL Collective to help create a stabilization plan for the organization, Terry said. It has also set up committees looking for a permanent executive and filling vacancies, she said.
The nonprofit development aid is eligible for approximately $ 210,000 in arrears rent from tenants through Washington County’s-managed Emergency Rental Assistance program, Terry said. The board prioritized collecting the rent starting with the tenants most at risk of eviction, she said.
Terry said many renters were unable to pay rent after the pandemic broke out.
“I appreciate that everyone just holds the line and lets us work some of it out,” she told the council.
Mayor Lioneld Jordan said after the presentation that all information that the city administration had received about the authority had been passed on to the council. The agency’s job is to ensure that low-income and disabled residents receive adequate housing, he said.
“I want to be sure that it gets done,” said Jordan.
The city council can appoint or remove members of the housing authority’s regular committee but has no power over the operation and administration of the authority, according to City Attorney Kit Williams.
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